Earn Miles for Nepal Earthquake Donations

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I’m sure you have seen images of the devastation in Nepal as a result of the recent earthquake.  As the death toll creeps toward a staggering 4,000, it is clear that area is going to need substantial support from the global community.  From here Nepal can seem like a very far away and distant location, but those of us fortunate enough to travel regularly know that nowhere in the world is really as “far away” or removed as it may seem.  In fact, another travel blogger named Jon who runs the website Wanderlusty happened to be in Kathmandu when the earthquake hit.  If you haven’t yet read his four part first-hand account of the experience, I recommend giving it a read.

As with other similar disasters, certain airlines have started to offer mileage incentives to their customers who donate money to support relief efforts.  I know that getting something in exchange for a charitable donation can elicit a wide variety of responses, but if some miles are the incentive that it takes for someone to donate then I think it is a great move.  I know that I have been meaning to “do something”, but sat on my keister until I got the email from United today spurring me to action.  I (hope I) would have donated at some point anyway, but this was the reminder I needed to turn “meaning to” into done.

United Earthquake Relief

United Airlines is working with its partners American Red Cross, Americares, Airlink and Operation USA to provide aid to those affected by the earthquake in Nepal, and they will provide up to $50,000 to match donations to these partner organizations from United customers and employees. They will also provide a one-time mileage bonus to MileagePlus members who donate, up to 5 million total miles for the initiative.  You can select from any of those four charities to donate via this promotion.

Donate $50 – $99 and receive 250 bonus miles

Donate $100 – $249 and receive 500 bonus miles

Donate more than $250 and receive 1,000 bonus miles.

Up to 5 million bonus miles will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis based on contributions made through the airline’s fundraising page through 11:59 PM CDT on May 15, 2015.

United is the first airline I have seen to offer miles specifically for the Nepal Earthquake Relief efforts, but I know that American is also offering 250 miles to those who donate $50 or 500 miles to thsoe who donate $100 to the Red Cross in April.  I fully expect other donation drives to spring up for Nepal in the travel community, so please feel free to share in the comments section if you learn of another similar opportunity.  If you wish, you can also use a credit card that gives a bonus on charitable donations such as the U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature that awards 3x on charity.

My thoughts are with all of those impacted by this event, and while I know my donation won’t make much of a difference by itself, if everyone that is able to helps out it will make a difference.


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  1. I’m glad you’re getting the word out about this, but perhaps a better title is in order? As it is it sounds a bit crass.

    • Charles, apologies if the title sounds crass. Intents are good, though without fail if you bring up getting something like miles for charitable efforts it gets mixed reviews….and also likely leads to more donations.

  2. Kudos to United…an extra 1k miles would be nice…but in the scheme of things, it’s minor compared to ensuring I picked the charity I felt would stretch my donation the farthest.

    • Gabriel, good for you for picking a charity that best aligns with getting your dollars spent in the best way possible.

  3. Just to be completely clear – these are miles United is awarding itself to spur giving, not miles the charity buys from United, right? If there is any cost to the charity for participating, I wouldn’t want to go this route, but rather give directly.

    • Dave, I don’t know how it all works behind the scenes, but says united will award up to 5 million miles and match 50k in donations. I 100% agree that those who were already involved in helping and researching exact charities can possibly do perhaps even more direct good by continuing on that path. However, I think we are all fooling ourselves if we think that description applies to the majority. Most need a reminder, and sometimes even an incentive to do something. Not so different than a bake sale or car wash or whatever. As long as folks are helping that otherwise might have not gotten to it, I call it a win.

  4. Wow, UAL is being so generous, donating (upto) 5m miles (that they value at approximately $50,000) … it should be noted that to donate the full 5m miles, mileage members will have to donate between $1m-$1.25m. The charities will spend 3-4% ($30k-$50k) in Crowdrise fees, PLUS between of $20k-$40k in credit card fees to process the donations. (ie, between Crowdrise, Visa/Mastercard etc, it’s going to cost the charities between 6%-8% of the “donation”)

    If you wish to donate to one of the four charities UAL lists, please consider giving direct to own websites (http://www.redcross.org, http://www.americares.org, http://opusa.org or http://www.airlink-info.org) where they can control the fees that are paid.

    Having said that, if you must give donations online, please use your check/bank card and not your credit card, (especially loyalty cards). Best yet is to donate at your local bank or supermarket, where they will absorb any fees on your behalf.

    Oh, I would like to say that it’s really generous of UAL to donate $50k … although since they announced their 2015Q1 net revenue of $508m that means they are donating a stunning 4 hours worth of revenue.

    /rant off

    • Ashley, I don’t disagree, but I will add that a charity “losing” 6-8% of a donation in order to make it easy and/or enticing enough for someone to donate is a heck of a lot better deal than that person never donating. So, if you have it in you to donate directly, use cash, use debit card, whatever that is fantastic, but don’t let that be the barrier to donating because then everyone loses.

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